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Daily Press Briefing
Tom Casey, Deputy Spokesman
Washington, DC
February 29, 2008

INDEX:

JAPAN

Refer to Pentagon on Prosecution of Marine / Charges Dropped and Individual in Custody of U.S Military Authorities / Military Investigation Continues
Purpose of U.S. Diplomatic Engagement Was to Express Regret and Concerns for People of Japan
No Role in U.S. Diplomatic Involvement to Have Case Dropped / U.S. Service Members and Diplomats Obligated to Follow Japanese Law

LEBANON

Presence of U.S. Ships in Eastern Mediterranean Part of Ongoing Commitment to Security and Stability in Region / It’s An Effort to Ensure Protection of U.S. National Interests There
Hope Syria Gets Hint That International Community Wants Them to Stop Interfering in Lebanon’s Political System
Important for Lebanon to Have a President / U.S. working with Arab League and Individual States

DEPARTMENT

Secretary Rice to Travel to Egypt / Discussion of Issues Related to the Annapolis Process /Situation in Gaza
U.S. Does Not Have Contact with Terrorist Organization Hamas / Clear Insistence that Hamas Stop Rocket Attacks / Hamas Main Policy is to Promote Terror

IRAQ

Expect Sentencing of Chemical Ali to Be Carried Out in Accordance to Iraqi Law
U.S. Wants to See Sentencing Carried Out
Reports of a Kidnapping

TURKEY/IRAQ

Turks Carried Out Commitment to U.S. and Iraqis
PKK Remains a Problem for Turkey, Iraq and U.S.
U.S. Would Like to See Continued Discussions Between Iraq and Turkey
PKK a Threat to Everyone Involved

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY

U.S. Government Filing of a Statement of Interest in Case of Compensation for Victims of Terrorism
U.S. Cares About Rights of Victims of Terrorism / Palestinian Government Acknowledges Individuals Deserve Compensations / Court Document in Public Domain / Parties Encouraged to Reach Mutually Acceptable Agreement

DEPARTMENT

Chairman Waxman’s Letter on Embassy Baghdad / Department Treats Congressional Requests Seriously
U.S. Embassy in Baghdad Project Still Being Finalized / No Date Certain for Completion / Must Ensure That Required Specifications in Contract are Met

NORTH KOREA

Readout of Assistant Secretary Chris Hill’s Meetings and Travel Schedule

TURKEY

Secretary Gates Addressed Intelligence Sharing While in Turkey

PAKISTAN

Deputy Secretary Negroponte’s Testimony of U.S. Policy on Pakistan
Pakistan’s Return to Full Democracy is Important for Its Political Leadership
Secretary Rice Has Pushed for Pakistan to Hold Elections / U.S. Programs Established to Support Pakistan’s Economic Reform Efforts

AFGHANISTAN

Primary Goal of U.S.–NATO Effort is To Provide Basic Level Security / Will Continue to Work with Government of Afghanistan / Issue of Terrorists – Extremists Funding and the Drug Trade


TRANSCRIPT:

View Video

12:54 p.m. EST

MR. CASEY: Okay. Well, good afternoon, everybody. Happy Friday. I’m glad I’ve made it through another week. I hope you are as well. I don’t have anything to start you off with, so go right to your questions, please.

QUESTION: This might be a question for the military, but do you have any details on whether the U.S. will prosecute the Marine in Japan for the rape case, it’s -- now – the rape charges now that it’s been dropped by the Japanese Government?

MR. CASEY: Well, I would refer you to our friends over at the Pentagon for that one, but just to give you an idea, my understanding is that those charges have been dropped and the individual in question has now been released from the custody of Japanese authorities. He has been taken into custody, as I understand it, by U.S. military authorities. And while this case has been dropped, they will, in fact, be continuing their investigation into this incident. Whether that ultimately results in charges or prosecution of the individual I think is something that’s yet to be determined, but for details on that, you really should speak to the folks over at the Pentagon.

QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up to that?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: Anything you can add about the impact of the statements by Secretary Rice and other diplomatic efforts by the United States in the case?

MR. CASEY: Well, the main purpose of our diplomatic engagement on this case was to express our regret and our concerns to the people of Japan as well as to the girl herself and her family members. This was a terrible incident. It is one that certainly doesn’t speak to the kind of relationship that we want to have between the United States and Japan. And as I said earlier today, what we want to see is to make sure that every step is taken to ensure that no future incident like this happens.

All of our folks, military, diplomatic and just plain American citizens going to Japan have an obligation to follow Japanese law and we certainly want to make sure that we are good guests in Japanese homes.

QUESTION: Anything you could say about – in more detail about the role that U.S. diplomats played in possibly brokering this latest development?

MR. CASEY: As far as I know, there’s absolutely no role in terms of U.S. diplomatic involvement in having this case be dropped. That was not anything we asked for, nor would it be our intention to do so. This is a serious matter. It’s one that involves an assault on a young woman. That should never happen and certainly, we would want to see that any kind of incident like this be fully investigated and dealt with.

And again, as I noted, my understanding is the U.S. military, despite the charges being dropped in this case, will continue its own investigation because of course, in addition to the obligation of U.S. service members and diplomats to follow Japanese law, they also have an obligation to follow U.S. law as well. And so the military will continue to look at this issue just to see what may or may not be done in terms of future legal action against this individual.

Dan.

QUESTION: In the last day or so, we’ve seen the dispatch of USS Cole to – close to the Lebanese, close to (inaudible). Can you tell us about your level of concern about stability in Lebanon and why -- the underlying diplomatic picture about (inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, I talked a little bit about this this morning. The presence of U.S. ships in the Eastern Mediterranean, including near the coast of Lebanon, is part of our ongoing commitment to security and stability in the region. The United States has had ships in and around that region for quite a long time. This is part and parcel of our security commitment to the countries of the region and part and parcel of our efforts to ensure the protection of U.S. national interests there. So I wouldn’t specifically relate this to any kind of events in Lebanon or anyplace else.

Now someone asked me earlier today whether the Syrians should take some kind of signal from this. And certainly, I don’t think one should specifically relate these two issues, but we certainly would hope that after several years, the Syrians would have gotten the hint that not only the United States, but the rest of the international community wants them to get out of the business of interfering in Lebanon’s political system and out of the business in blocking Lebanese aspirations for development of their democracy.

Yeah.

QUESTION: Tom, close by in the neighborhood, can it be reasonably inferred that Secretary Rice is going to Egypt because of the Gaza situation? And there any efforts being made somehow through third parties to try to get through to Hamas and talk to them about the rocket business?

MR. CASEY: Well, a couple of things. We did put out a statement yesterday afternoon that I think you’ve all seen that Secretary Rice in addition to her travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories, as well as to Brussels for the NATO summit, will now also be making a stop in Egypt. Part of that is to discuss issues related to the Annapolis process, but also obviously one of the things on our minds is the situation in Gaza. And Egypt has an important role to play in that regard, so I think it’s a good opportunity for her to be able to consult with Egyptian officials on those issues, as well as on the other matters that are in our bilateral relationship.

As far as Hamas goes we, of course, do not have contacts with Hamas. They’re a terrorist organization. And we certainly don’t intend to change that policy. However, I think you’ve heard from the Secretary, as well as from others about our clear insistence that these rocket attacks stop. They are a situation that is absolutely unacceptable. They are not aimed at anything other than randomly targeting innocent civilians in Israel. They do nothing to serve the interests of the people in Gaza.

And more importantly, they further highlight the fact that anyone who thinks that Hamas is somehow a legitimate political actor needs to address because it’s pretty hard to say that Hamas is a political party and a political organization when – while it is not only subverting the institutions in Gaza through its illegal actions there, it’s also having a deliberate attack on Israel organized and designed by its fighters. And you know, not only is Hamas not trying to stop it, Hamas is encouraging it. And it’s pretty hard to say that Hamas has a legitimate role to play in this process if their main policy is to promote terror.

Yeah, Kirit.

QUESTION: Just a couple points on Iraq. First, do you have any reaction to the planned hanging of “Chemical Ali” that’s been approved by the Presidency Council?

MR. CASEY: Well, my understanding is that the Presidency Council has now approved the sentencing. I think that before that sentence can be carried out there is a technical step of having that decision published in the Gazette, but I expect that that will happen shortly.

My understanding in terms of the custody issues involved here is that there’s not yet been a request from the Iraqi Government to transfer the physical custody of “Chemical Ali” to Iraqis. But I fully expect that that sentence will be carried out and that will be done in accordance with Iraqi law and in accordance with the procedures that are laid out for it.

QUESTION: The last time there was kind of a high-profile hanging with Saddam Hussein, there was some cell phone footage that was taken and that crated a big stir based on who was putting it out there. Have you spoken to the Iraqis about the procedure this time?

MR. CASEY: I don’t -- I’m not aware of what conversations might have taken place. Certainly, we want to see any sentence, whether it’s a death sentence or just a regular criminal sentence, be carried out in accordance with what you’d expect of international norms, and I think the Iraqis are well aware of that.

QUESTION: And then one more on Iraq. There’s reports of a kidnapping of a Catholic leader in -- a prominent Catholic leader in Iraq. Do you have any reaction to that?

MR. CASEY: I haven’t seen those reports, so we’ll see if we can get anything for you later.

QUESTION: Thanks.

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: Turkish General Staff has announced that it has withdrawn its entire troops presence in northern Iraq, probably with respect to the current operation. There is a concern in the public view in Turkey that this comes after -- right after Secretary Gates’ visit and President Bush’s call for immediate withdrawal. Any reaction or any response?

MR. CASEY: Well, two things. First of all, I think we’re pleased to see that the Turks carried out their commitment to us and to the Iraqis to have this operation be limited in scope and duration. That is something that they have always said they intended to do, and that certainly appears to be a standard that was met by this. I, as far as I know, believe that the Turkish Government took this decision because it made sense militarily and politically to the Government of Turkey, and not in response to any kind of actions on our part. Certainly, the important thing, though, is that the PKK is and remains a problem for Turkey, for the United States and for Iraq, and what we want to do is continue to work with the Government of Turkey as well as the Government of Iraq to be able to resolve it and put an end to the threat that it poses to all of us.

QUESTION: Will you be making any approach to Turkish Government to getting direct talks with the KRG, the northern Iraqis authorities?

MR. CASEY: Well, we certainly would like to see continued discussions go on between Turkish and Iraqi Government officials. Whether those talks involve national leadership or regional leadership, I don’t think is anything that I have a prescription for right now. We think that whoever would be effective interlocutors ought to be involved. Obviously, the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq is an important player in this issue, and I think they have been involved in discussions that have already taken place between the national governments and I expect they will continue to be in the future.

But the main point here is that this group, the PKK, is a terrorist group that’s a threat to everyone involved. It’s a threat to Iraqis, it’s a threat to Turks and it’s a threat to the United States. And we all need to work together to resolve it because this isn’t an issue that’s going to be solved by any one of us individually.

Yeah, Nina.

QUESTION: Tom, it’s about the terrorism claims case in New York --

MR. CASEY: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- and I also asked a couple of days ago. Today is the deadline for the statement from the State Department to be filed. Are you going to be filing anything?

MR. CASEY: Well, let me just quibble -- I’ll give you an answer, but let me first of all quibble with the idea that this is a State Department filing. It’s a U.S. Government filing. And whatever the response will be, will be representative of the concerted view of all the agencies involved, including the Department of Justice and many others.

There has not yet been a response given to the judge’s request for whether we would intend to file a statement of interest or not, and I’m certainly not going to get ahead of the legal process here, though my understanding is we will be providing a response to that request sometime later this afternoon.

Whatever happens, one thing I think is clear: We care deeply about the rights of those American citizens who have been victims of terrorism or who have suffered losses because of terrorist attacks. And those individuals deserve just compensation for the terrible things that they have suffered. We are pleased that we have a Palestinian Authority Government now under President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad, who are allied with us in fighting terror and who have acknowledged that these individuals deserve compensation. In fact, I know that Prime Minister Fayyad has said publicly that he would like to see some mechanism found to provide fair and just compensation to these individuals.

So regardless of what actually is our response to the court in New York, I think -- it is our hope that what we would see happen is a settlement reached between these parties that would ensure that the individuals involved get justice and receive compensation for the losses that they've suffered.

QUESTION: Will that -- will there be a statement? Will it be made public this afternoon? Will there be anything you could send us on this?

MR. CASEY: Well, I will see if there's something more we can say on this later this afternoon. But as with all court documents of this type, this is a public document that will be filed in the court, and you and anyone else are welcome to get it from there. I'm not -- don't believe there's any plans to publicly release it since the public release is, in effect, its filing with the court.

QUESTION: But if you have any kind of summary statements could you send it out (inaudible)?

MR. CASEY: I'll be happy to answer your and anyone else's questions on it once something has to been done. There are, of course, also several other agencies of government, including the Department of Justice, that probably would be happy to talk about it as well.

Goyal.

MR. CASEY: Charlie decided to say -- hold on, Goyal. Same thing, Charlie?

QUESTION: Your discussion about a settlement being reached, are there parallel efforts already underway to achieve that?

MR. CASEY: Well, I know there are discussions among the parties to this case. But again, I think our -- the important point for us is that however this is settled, that there be some form of just compensation given to these individuals that recognizes that it is appropriate to the injuries that they have (inaudible). We would certainly encourage the parties to reach an agreement that would be mutually acceptable. But I'm -- as to what discussions might be underway between the plaintiffs and their attorneys and the Palestinian Authority and their legal advisors, that's something I would leave to them.

We would certainly encourage them to have those kinds of discussions, but we are not a party to them. I would use, in a sense, the analogy of other cases involving negotiations between a government or a government entity and lawyers representing victims of terrorist attacks. And as you know, there have been several other cases that are out there wherein there have been negotiations that have reached an equitable settlement.

Kirit.

QUESTION: Your good friend, Chairman Waxman, has sent another letter to the Secretary, again about the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, requesting information about Mary French's signing off on a certain part of the embassy as acceptable; whereas later (inaudible) received some documents say that it's not. Do you know if you received the letter or do you plan on providing any information to him? He's requesting that the acting head of OBO appear before the committee in a couple of weeks. Do you know anything about it?

MR. CASEY: Well, I'm very glad that Chairman Waxman's office has efficiently provided you with that information. I'm not aware that it's actually been received here at the Department of State. It is unfortunate how mail sometimes tends to get delayed in reaching us. But I'm glad it's gotten to you.

Certainly, as always, we treat very seriously any requests from Chairman Waxman as we would from any other member of Congress. I am sure that we will prepare an appropriate response to his questions. And if that includes making individuals available to speak with members of his staff or otherwise, I'm sure those requests will be considered.

On the broader subject, of course, of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, that continues to be a project that is being finalized. As you know, and I think you've heard from Pat Kennedy, among others, we certainly have no intention of taking occupancy -- or establishing occupancy in a facility that doesn't fully meet all our standards. The contract for this -- for this facility was a fixed-rate contract, so any additional costs required to fix or respond to any problems that are there as people work down the punch list will be born fully by the contractor. I think that's important.

We do, however, want to complete this project as quickly as possible. We think we owe it to Ambassador Crocker and all his team and all our diplomats and others working out there to provide them with a first-class facility that provides adequate protection and adequate facilities for them to be able to do what we all agree is a very difficult mission in Iraq.

QUESTION: And what's -- is there a new timeline for taking occupancy of the embassy?

MR. CASEY: I won't -- I couldn't give you a timeline that I'd be comfortable with for the renovations that have been done on certain parts of my house, and I'm certainly not going to try and offer you one with respect to the new embassy. We want it to be done as soon as possible. I think everyone's understanding is that that will happen in the not-too-distant future. But I don't have anyone that's provided me with a date certain for that. And again, the important thing is not the when; the important thing is that when we get it, and when we establish occupancy there, that we can be assured and that every one of our diplomats can be assured there that the specifications that we required in the contract have been met.

Charlie.

QUESTION: Was -- is that correct, though, that the embassy project was accepted as substantially complete?

MR. CASEY: You know, I have no idea what that refers to, Charlie. What I can tell you is there’s about 18 technical terms that are used between OBO and the lawyers and our management people for various stages in the project.

Far as I’m concerned, though, and I think as far as most of us who aren’t involved in the technicalities of this, there’s only one standard that matters. And that’s the certificate of occupancy, which says that yes, everything’s been done, everything’s been done according to our requirements, and we are now ready to be able to move our people into that facility. And that hasn’t happened yet and that’s, I can promise you, not going to happen until we are assured that that project is a hundred percent complete and done in accordance with the requirements that we laid out at the beginning of the contract.

Yeah, in the back.

QUESTION: Do you have Chris Hill’s schedule for this weekend?

MR. CASEY: Well, you know, his secretary didn’t give me the exact one. Let’s see, 3:15, lunch at the pool – no, sorry, I wouldn’t want to say that. Let me tell you what I’ve been able to get about Chris’ schedule here. First of all – let’s see, let me see if I’ve got – I know I have it here somewhere and we are searching, searching, searching – does anyone have any good kind of search music, something that’ll – kind of ticking clock or something – okay, here’s what I’ve got.

So Assistant Secretary Hill was in Beijing – or sorry, in Bangkok today. He met with the Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, and the ASEAN Secretary General, also gave a speech at one of the local universities there. He’ll be traveling from Bangkok directly back to Beijing on Saturday, March the 1st, and he’ll have further discussions there with Chinese officials on how to move the six-party process forward. I don’t have details at this point of who he’s specifically meeting with, but of course, he’s met generally with Wu Dawei and others in his staff involved directly in these discussions.

The plan then, at this point, is that he’ll have those consultations on Saturday and on Sunday, will then travel on to Hanoi as previously scheduled, do his meetings there, leave Hanoi late on March the 3rd and be back here on March the 4th. And to answer your next question, he does not, as yet, have any detailed schedule of appointments and that would include any appointments with Kim Gye Gwan or other North Korean officials.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Okay, over here.

QUESTION: So what’s going to happen to like, Turkey and U.S. sharing the real-time intelligence? I mean, after this – like, Turkey’s withdrawal, is United States going to continue to giving those intelligence for the future – possible future strikes?

MR. CASEY: Well, Secretary Gates addressed this while he was in Turkey and I’d refer you back to his comments. The arrangements that are in place now are continuing and I’m not aware of any plans to change them at this point.

Yeah, Goyal, I’m sorry. I started with you a while ago and you know, we eventually got back here.

QUESTION: I have a couple questions on South Asia. Let’s start with the – so much has been written and said about the elections in Pakistan and so many think tanks, every day, briefings on this issue including this afternoon, I’ll be going to one on the – but one thing is clear, Tom, that people of Pakistan have spoken very clearly for democracy in Pakistan for the first time in – at least in 10 years and a clear call for General – Mr. Musharraf to step down.

What I’m asking you is that they had the both political parties on their agenda that this is -- to bring old Supreme Court back and Mr. Musharraf must leave in order to make room for a full-fledged clear democracy in Pakistan and people have spoken for it. You think the U.S. is ready and prepared for his departure?

MR. CASEY: Well, first of all, let me just point out that Deputy Secretary Negroponte gave testimony on our policies on Pakistan yesterday. And I think for the best read on where we are on many of those issues, I’d refer you back to his remarks. In terms of our broader policies, though, towards Pakistan and couple of specific things that you mentioned, I mean, first of all, the elections were a victory for democracy and for all those who wanted to see democracy be able to expand and develop in Pakistan. And I think that’s clear to everyone.

The other questions, though, and all the questions you’ve talked about relate to how Pakistanis, how their democratically elected leaders intend to organize their government, develop their policies and manage their own internal political process. And that really is something that is theirs to decide. The United States did not before the election or during the election process, nor are we now going to try and take sides in that or interfere in those internal discussions.

What’s going on in Pakistan right now is very important. This is a real development in Pakistan’s return to what we hope ultimately will be full democracy there and it’s a very important moment for Pakistan’s political leadership. And they’ve got to make these choices for themselves and really only they are in the position to do so. I mean, that’s not to say the United States doesn’t have interests in Pakistan. We have a clear national interest in being able to work closely and effectively with the Government of Pakistan on three fundamental things that are of concern to us. One is the one everybody always talks about, which is working together with the Pakistani Government to confront extremism and confront terrorism in the Fatah, in Pakistan itself, as well as cooperatively to fight extremism in Afghanistan because you can’t consider any of those in isolation.

The second, though, is one that I don’t think gets much attention and that really should, which is the fact that since the beginning of Secretary Rice’s tenure, she has worked and pushed the Pakistani Government to do what it now has done, to hold elections, to hold elections that really give the Pakistani people a chance to decide who their leadership should be and a chance for democracy to be restored and to develop more fully in that country, and also to work with Pakistan’s leaders to deal with the real challenges that are posed in that country to provide opportunity and economic development there.

And you heard from the Deputy Secretary yesterday about the programs that we have established already, particularly for development in FATA as well as for support for Pakistani economic reform efforts and economic development efforts. And there was a lengthy discussion there as well about what we can do in the future to be able to assist Pakistan, because the important thing is that Pakistan well beyond any time -- and I hope there will be a time in the not-too-distant future -- where extremism is not such a threat to all of us, Pakistan is going to be an important country in the region and in the world. It’s going to be an important partner for the United States in all kinds of areas. So we have a long-term interest and a long-term investment in Pakistan, and we want to be able to work fully not only with yesterday’s government and today’s government but with future governments, because our interests in Pakistan are long-term and we believe that we share a lot of common needs, common desires and common values with the Pakistanis.

QUESTION: May I have one on Afghanistan, please?

MR. CASEY: Sure.

QUESTION: That’s also related to terrorism and also this new narcotic report. Secretary Gates was in India and also in the region on this problem in Afghanistan, and now NATO meeting is coming. And many are saying in think-tank meetings, including at the CSIS and all that, that NATO is really kind of failure at this moment because al-Qaida and terrorists are coming back in Afghanistan and because there was a time when U.S. got freedom for those first time that they voted and that democracy in Afghanistan and people were -- had high hope from the U.S. And now what they are saying is that first they were dying for democracy, now they are fighting for security, how to secure their life.

What my question is that one Afghanistan has become today the largest producers of poppy and other drugs and it’s flowing freely and also produces terrorism and drugs and all that. But they are both flowing freely between Pakistan and Afghanistan. My question is that you think al-Qaida and Talibans are coming back to Afghanistan because of the drug money or drugs they have, because the drugs, or what?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think that you can’t separate out any of these problems, Goyal. Obviously, the problem of extremism and the problem of terrorism from al-Qaida or from the Taliban is one issue that creates insecurity and instability in the region. Narcotics production, the narcotics trade, the abuse of narcotics, is a separate problem, but is one that the instability caused by al-Qaida and the Taliban contributes to. And certainly, one of the primary goals of U.S. efforts, NATO efforts and others in Afghanistan is to provide that kind of basic level security for people so that you can manage it.

I think if you look historically, and you know, you can also consult the rather lengthy report that I understand David Johnson not only held up but dangerously threw at his staff members earlier today on the narcotics report -- seriously, it’s a very comprehensive volume that talks a lot about the problems in Afghanistan as well as about what we’re trying to do to solve it. And I think if you look historically over time, you’ll find that there always is a opportunity presented where drug trafficking and that kind of lawlessness is for violent extremist groups to operate; and vice versa, where there violent extremist groups, there’s always an opportunity for the narcotics trade to flourish.

So we understand that these are interlinked problems and we’re going to continue to work with the Government of Afghanistan to be able to respond to them. And again, for more details on that, I’d refer you back to what David spoke about during his briefing a little earlier today as well as the report itself.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

MR. CASEY: I’ll tell you what. Give me a break, give you a break, let’s go over to her because she’s kept -- had her hand up in between, and I’ll come back to you, Goyal, before we end up.

QUESTION: If I may go back to Lebanon, the Arab League (inaudible) said yesterday that the election of a new president is possible before the coming Arab summit at the end of March. Do you share this assessment? And also, do you have any kind of cooperation with the Arab League about this specific issue?

MR. CASEY: Well, inshallah. It’s been way too long since Lebanon attempted to move forward with the election of a president, and I guess we are now at 15 different postponements of that happening. We all believe it’s important for Lebanon to have a president to be able to move forward in its political process. We have certainly been working with the Arab League and with individual states to encourage that to move forward. As you know, there have been obstacles to that, including the continued interference of Syria in that process, and we would like to see that end. If the upcoming Arab summit provides some impetus to help resolve that, we would very much like to see it happen.

I think the main point, though, is we believe it is well past time for this to occur. We wish that this issue had been resolved previously and we’re certainly going to do everything we can to help the Lebanese people and government achieve a resolution of it, and one that gives them a president who will be independent of foreign interference and reflects the will of the people as expressed in the elections there.

Samir.

QUESTION: Will this issue be a topic of discussion when Secretary Rice visits with President of Egypt?

MR. CASEY: Well, I’m sure they will cover a number of regional issues as well as some of the bilateral ones there. Certainly, Lebanon is always a topic of conversation that’s generally on the minds of people in the region, so it certainly wouldn't surprise me if this came up in her discussions.

Okay, Goyal.

QUESTION: Thanks Tom, quickly I just had to ask you that you think that narcotics or money laundering or narcotics revenues by the al-Qaida or terrorists in Afghanistan is -- they are using this to carry out their terrorist activities in Afghanistan and Pakistan and around the globe?

MR. CASEY: Well, I think what I was trying to say before, probably not as well as I could have, is that there is a nexus between terrorism and drug trafficking. I don’t have details for you, but you’ve seen many examples of where terrorist groups, extremist groups, use funding from the drug trade to be able to carry out their activities. One thing that is a real problem from the demand end on this, and you’ve heard our officials here talk about that, is in many ways those people who choose to use illegal drugs in this country or anyplace else are, in fact, in some at least indirect way, contributing to instability in places like Afghanistan and potentially contributing to the activities of terrorist groups.

QUESTION: Thank you.

MR. CASEY: Thanks, guys.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:26 p.m.)

DPB # 37



Released on February 29, 2008

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